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Former residents prep for hurricane

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    Janice Zuchowski of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, has boarded her windows in preparation for Hurricane Florence. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published September 12. 2018 12:25PM

Transplants from Pennsylvania have been preparing for incoming Hurricane Florence this week.

There are several former residents among the nearly 1 million residents of the South Carolina coast who are subject to mandatory evacuations.

While many people are listening to evacuation orders, some decided they would be more prepared to weather out the storm than in a shelter.

“Even though we are under mandatory evacuation, if we lose power I’d rather be here,” said Janice Zuchowski, formerly of Gilbert, now living outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

Zuchowski said she has a hotel reservation in place, but hopes she won’t have to use it. For her, evacuation would require using Interstate 26, which is running westbound only with no exits for more than 100 miles between Charleston and Columbia.

Her medical equipment makes it difficult for her to ride one of the buses which are available for evacuations.

“They have special buses you can take but they bring you to a gym and you have to bring your own bedding, etc. I have medical equipment that I need to plug in,” she said.

Former Jim Thorpe residents Geralyn and Terry Hartman were part of a mandatory evacuation order on Monday.

Hartman, who is preparing for her first hurricane evacuation since relocating to Myrtle Beach in 2017, said they were lucky enough to find three rooms at a hotel about 3.5 hours inland from their home. They’ll be joined by two neighbors who also hail from the Carbon County area, and Geralyn’s 14-year-old dog, Mocha.

While their home is about 9 miles from the ocean, she observed the evacuation order because her house is surrounded by large pine trees, which neighbors said became a hazard during the last significant hurricane to strike the area.

“If one comes crashing on our house, I don’t know what we’ll do. We have insurance for that. The main reason was, we didn’t want to be trapped by trees toppling over,” she said.

She said there are some neighbors are taking their chances with the weather, but most were packing up to leave when they left Tuesday morning.

The supermarket where she works part-time closed early Monday night, and even Walmart, which rarely changes their 24-hour schedule, closed up early.

“A lot of people who said they weathered the last few hurricanes, with this one, they’re all evacuating. They feel it’s gonna be very bad,” she said.

Traffic conditions backed up that fact. The normally 3.5-hour trip up to their hotel, located west of the state capital, Columbia, was going to take about twice as long due to traffic on the interstates. According to published reports, some highways were seeing three times as much traffic as usual.

Having never been part of a hurricane evacuation, Hartman did what she could think of. Patio furniture was moved inside, and with no hurricane shutters, they closed plantation shutters.

Hartman’s experience with extreme weather comes from her time in Jim Thorpe — a few years ago she lost power for about a week.

“The difference between a blizzard up there and a hurricane down here, the good thing is you can take your freezer food, put it in a cooler, and put it outside. The snow and cold keeps it good,” she said.

So she and her neighbors will be enjoying a homemade pot roast and hamburger barbecue when they arrive at their hotel.

She said her family invited her to return north and stay with them, but they will hold off until a scheduled visit later this month.

Despite all the concern about the approaching hurricane, Hartman said she wouldn’t trade it for Pennsylvania winters. She and Terry closed that chapter when they moved to South Carolina last year. She’d rather chance a couple of storms than go through the constant cold and wet of a Pennsylvania winter.

“I love the mountains, but this is our new life,” she said.

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